What’s In A Name – Top 20 Firms Make The Change

Michael PlattWhat’s in a name? Two big announcements were made in September by Top 20 firms to help them take better advantage of future global opportunities. The 66-year-old Indiana native Crowe Chizek & Company has adopted a new name, Crowe Horwath, reflecting its strong relationship with Horwath International and the desire to become a global leader. The 77-year-old Midwest powerhouse, Virchow Krause & Company, will soon adopt the name Baker Tilly, becoming the only U.S.-branded entity in the Baker Tilly International network.

Reaction to the name changes from other CPA firms have ranged from “brilliant” to “crazy.” Why in the world would a well-established firm like Virchow Krause risk losing market awareness by adopting a whole new name? “It’s foolishness,” said one IPA Top 100 partner. But both VK and Crowe are taking steps to adapt to the fast-changing global marketplace. They are planting a flag in a brave new world of international accounting standards, multinational transactions and a shrinking global economy. It is a grand experiment, playing out on a combined 143 years of history and name recognition.

Will their gamble work? If it does, both Virchow and Crowe will have successfully re-invented themselves for the 21st century, and will possibly start a trend that will move the U.S. accounting profession closer to the seamless global player that it wishes to become. Regardless, their moves will set in motion a marketing juggernaut that will be closely watched by consultants, firms, clients and staff. Let the experiment begin – I, too, will be watching with great interest.

Managing Partner Elections? Why Not!

Michael PlattAs I was sitting watching a news story the other day about the presidential election, my mind wandered a bit and I began thinking:  What would the world of public accounting look like if partners in CPA firms had to campaign for their position and be re-elected every four years?

I know, I know – it is heresy to suggest. A partnership is not a democracy, and you’ve all worked hard to get where you are, and the thought of having to re-earn the position is ludicrous. Or is it?

Running on their record, being accountable to their constituents, maintaining a vision for the future, inspiring others to follow them – these are the traits of a successful candidate for president, and they are the same traits for a successful candidate for partner.

A system that requires re-election to partnership would ensure accountability and keep the best people in the partner positions in the firm at all times. It would provide greater opportunity for younger staff, and would ensure that partners continue reaching ever-higher to maintain their position of authority and status in the firm.

Alas, this idea is likely to be as fleeting as a town hall meeting and as probable as a Ron Paul presidency. But while it may not be something that partners would be able to easily digest, I offer this idea at least as food for thought as you look toward creating the successful firm of the future.

Are Your Numbers Truly Stellar?

Michael PlattIf you’ve ever been sailing, it’s an exhilarating feeling to have the wind at your back, slicing freely through the water, proud of your boat and your crew, challenging the elements and feeling accomplished with your progress. But the truly competitive among us look out at the other boats, wondering why some are moving faster. What is it about their sail, the structure of their boat, their rudder technique, or the synchronicity of their crew that allows them to move faster through the same waters powered by the same wind?

Sitting at lunch at a recent CPA conference, three MPs leaned over to me and shared their perspectives from recent partner meetings where they focused on benchmarking their firm. “Our progress this year has been great,” said one MP of a $14 million firm. “But when we sat down as a group and looked at what other firms our size have done, our numbers weren’t quite as strong as we thought,” leading to some very focused discussions on key metrics and how to improve. In seeing these “other boats” slicing through the water faster powered by the same winds, these MPs captured a theme repeated in several articles in this issue – success “because of us” versus “success despite us.”

As IPA prepares to distribute the 2008 Annual Survey and Analysis of Firms, we urge each of you to participate. Your efforts help all in the profession – your firm especially – in defining what’s being done right and where you can improve. Your participation will help define for you the subtle differences between those sailboats that are slicing through the water because of a strong wind, and those that are doing it smoother, faster and with more skill.